CDWR Supports Planned Protest of Commercial Drivers in Lagos State
For a Democratically Controlled Union or Association of Drivers to Defend Members’ Welfare
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) supports the plan by commercial bus drivers in Lagos under the auspices of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association (JDWAN) to hold a protest action on Monday October 31 over extortion and attacks by motor park thugs popularly known as “Agberos”. We appeal to the general public to support this protest.
For many years now commercial bus drivers and other road transport workers in Lagos and across the country have come under constant and daily attack, harassment and extortion from motor park thugs organized under the “Road Transport Union (National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW)”. These Agberos are quick to molest drivers and conductors including damaging their vehicles if their unjustified and outrageous demands are not instantly met.
This organized extortion has the backing of the government and some top government officials are beneficiaries. A report by the International Centre for Investigative Report and published in Punch Newspaper on July 23, 2021, has it that the extortionist activities of Agberos in Lagos State generate N123 billion annually, something which is equivalent of the annual budget of Nasarawa, Niger, and Yobe states put together. The huge sums of money regularly generated and kickbacks to politicians and top government officials is enough to guarantee the support from these self-serving ruling elite. This explains why following the recent clash of interests between the Lagos NURTW and the national leadership of the NURTW, the Lagos State government intervened to back the Lagos NURTW (MC Oluomo’s leadership) leading to the creation of the Lagos State Park Management Committee with MC Oluomo as the leader.
The NURTW is affiliated with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) but its activities lack democracy and decency; drivers and conductors do not have any opportunity to determine how the so-called union is run, no meetings of the road transport workers are called, and no room to become a member of the union or dismember and all its activities are defined by force and threat. Money forcefully collected are not union dues but levies, more of an outrageous and compulsory tax. The extortionist activities of these so-called unions, Agberos or ‘Park Mangers’ as well as lack of regulation, and price control of the dominant unorganized private sector are largely responsible for the high transport fares.
We call for an end to extortion, harassment, and intimidation of drivers not only in Lagos State but across the country, and urge pro-masses organisations to support the struggle of the beleaguered commercial drivers. The leadership of the Joint Drivers Welfare Association (JDWAN) must be committed and ready to mobilize mass of drivers and run a democratic platform wherein drivers and conductors will collectively and democratically determine the activities of the union that defends the interests of its rank-and-file members.
Comrade Rufus Olusesan
E-mail: [email protected]